- The Leader 101 Course (12 months): Cultivating Habits of Highly Effective Spiritual Leaders
- This month (August 2015): Cultivating the Habit of Looking Expectantly for 10:2b Answers
- Last week: How do you know when you have a 10:2b answer? (In other words, what (or who) did Jesus have in mind when He told us to pray for “harvest workers”?)
TWO KINDS OF “WORKERS”
In the immediate context of Luke 10, it becomes apparent that there are two kinds of people working in the Lord’s field. The first kind is the man (or woman) of peace. This person(s) live in a “house of peace” (shalom bayit). The second kind is the apostle (from apostello – “to send”). We say that an apostle is a man or woman called and gifted and sent by God to plant multiple churches.
THIS WEEKS QUESTION: SHOULD YOU PLANT HOUSE CHURCHES AMONG CHRISTIANS?
In other words, should you expect that some (many) of your 10:2b answers will already be Christians? There are some who say that the primary focus of church planting should be among the lost, those who don’t yet know Jesus. We strongly disagree with this. While it is a great thing to plant churches among the lost, we think it is also both valid and important to join Jesus in birthing house churches among those who are already followers of Jesus.
Start by watching the video below. Scroll all the way to the bottom of this page. When you have finished the video, come back here and begin reading through this article. Read until the Coach stops you. Ask Him why He stopped you at that place and what He wants to say to you about that idea. Enter into a conversation with Him. Repeat.
FIRST CENTURY 10:2B ANSWERS
Our assumption is that Jesus prayed 10:2b (see Lk 6:40) and that he taught his disciples to do the same (Lk 10:2). And, that his disciples taught their disciples to do the same. And, so on. (Mt 28:20). So, what did their 10:2b answers look like? By seeing how the Lord of the harvest answered their prayers, we will know better the kinds of people we are to look (expectantly!) for.
News flash! Jesus was Jewish. Of course, in one sense, we know this already. But, we often don’t realize the full extent of what this means. For instance, we think of Christianity and Judaism as two separate religions but this was not the case for at least the first 40 years of the early church. Consider these quotes from Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson…
A cursory look at the beginnings of Christianity reveals a Church that was made up exclusively of Jews. Indeed, the Church was viewed as a sect within Judaism, as the book of Acts makes clear in referring to early followers of Jesus as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5). They seemed to function easily within Judaism in that they were described as “enjoying the favor of all the people” (2:47). p. 41.
The First Jewish Revolt marked a turning point in the history of Judaism. “The early Church up to 70 C. E. was a daughter of Judaism: only after that did it leave the nest.” (Davies) As we have stressed, however, the leaving was a process. It would not become finalized until well into the second century. But the date of A. D. 70 basically marked the end of the Zealot, Sadducean, and Essene sects. Only the Pharisees and the struggling Nazarenes remained as parties in major contention. p. 77.
So, Jesus was Jewish. And, all of his disciples were Jewish. And, most of their disciples where Jewish. and so on. And, most of their 10:2b answers were Jewish (not pagans, not gentiles). In fact, it may be that the first Gentile (non Jewish) 10:2b answer was Cornelius and he didn’t show up until 40 AD (Acts 10). And, even Cornelius and all his family were “God-fearers” (Acts 10:2). (“God-fearer” was a technical term referring to Gentiles who hung out at the synagogue but who hadn’t converted to Judaism (which required circumcision, keeping the dietary laws, etc.).)
Jesus (no doubt), prayed 10:2b. Who were some of the answers he received?
- Possible houses of peace: Peter’s home (“The house of Peter before Easter was a place where the first core group of disciples gathered around Jesus in a house community that can be described as a kind of house church in embryonic form, the ‘cradle of the ecclesia in its early formation.’…this house appears not only as the house of Peter and the home of Jesus but as the house of the new family of God as well… Mary and Martha, Lazarus (Luke 10:38-39; cf. John 11:1, 18), and Simon the leper (Matt 26:6/Mark 14:3), all of whom were residents of Bethany on the Mount of Olives.” Gehring, House Church and Mission, p. 43, 47
- Apostolic church planters: “These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon (who is called Peter) and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus; Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. (Mt. 102-4). “After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go.” Lk 10:1
Jesus’ disciples (no doubt!) also prayed 10:2b. Who were some of their answers?
- Possible or probable houses of peace: Philip (Acts 21:8-9), Simon the tanner (Acts 9:43), Judas (Acts 9:11,17), Lydia (Acts 16:11-15), Philippian jailer (Acts 16:25-23), Jason (Acts 17:1-9), Phoebe (Rom. 16:2), Gaius (Rom. 16:23), Priscilla and Aquila (1 Cor 16:19 ), Titus Justus (Acts 18:7), Crispus (Acts 18:8), Stephanas (1 Cor 1:16), Philemon (Col. 4:9, 4:17), Nympha (Col. 4:15)
- Apostolic church planters: Saul (Paul… certainly the most surprising 10:2b answer in the NT!), Barnabas (Acts 14:14), Andronicus and Junia (the first female apostle? Rom 16:7), Silas (1 Thes 1:1, 2:6), Timothy (1 Thes 1:1, 2:6), Apollos (1 Cor. 4:9
A LARGE, RECEPTIVE POPULATION GROUP
Another often overlooked fact is that a large number of Jews lived outside of Palestine in the first century. These people were referred to as the “diaspora” (the dispersed) and most of them had been gone from Palestine for hundreds of years. (Peter refers to these people in 1 Peter 1:1… To God’s elect, strangers in the world, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asian and Bithynia…)
It is important to keep in mind how greatly the Hellenized Jews of the dispora outnumbered the Jews living in Palestine. Johnson (1976) suggests that there were a million in Palestine and four million outside, while Meeks (1983) places the population of the diaspora at five to six million (p. 57). Stark, The Rise of Christianity, p. 57.
The best estimate is that by the first century, Jews made up from 10 to 15 percent of the population of the Roman Empire, nearly 90 percent of them living in cities outside Palestine. This would have amounted to from six to nine million people. Stark, Cities of God, p. 6.
Why was it significant that there was a huge population of Jews in the diaspora? These people, often referred to as Hellenized (or Hellenistic) Jews, had largely lost touch with the religious system called “Judaism”. They still believed in and worshipped Yahweh but they were “done” with many of the “religious” aspects of Judaism. (The seven men chosen to oversee food distribution in Acts 6:1-7 all had Greek names and were likely Hellenistic Jews.)
Many diasporan Jews, probably the majority of them, had abandoned some provisions of the Law well before the arrival of Christianity. For example, the prohibition against eating with non-Jews probably was widely ignored… But, if they no longer were very Jewish, neither were they Greek… For many Hellenized Jews, a monotheism with deep Jewish roots, but without the Law, would have been extremely attractive. Stark, Cities of God, p. 125-126.
In our language, we might say that these Hellenized Jews were “done” with “church”, with institutionalized religion. But, many of them still loved God and were very responsive to the good news that Paul and other apostles brought to them. They became the basis for a church planting movement that resulted in over 6 million Christians by 300 AD. So, by the middle of the first century, the majority of 10:2b answers were coming from this receptive (God-prepared?) population group called Hellenistic Jews in the diaspora.
TODAY’S LARGE RECEPTIVE POPULATION GROUP
I believe we have a similar situation in the United States today. Recent research indicates that 31% of American adults (65 million people) are part of a group called the “Dones”. These are people who were previously part of a church, often in leadership, who have left the institutional church. They are “done” with church as they have known it. A blog by Thom Shultz, President of Group Publishing, summarizes…
In their new book (“Church Refugees: “), sociologists Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope compare the Dones to refugees. They write, “Refugees are people who’ve been forced from their homes–for fear of persecution. That describes the dechurched. If they stayed, they would risk further estrangement from their spiritual selves, from God, and from a religion they still believe in. That’s what’s interesting about the Dones. They’re not running away from God. Many of them say they’re now running better toward God.
Church consultant, Reggie McNeal, says it this way…
The current church culture in North America is on life support. It is living off the work, money and energy of previous generations from a previous world order. The plug will be pulled wither when the money runs out (80 percent of money given to congregations comes from people aged fifty-five and older) or when the remaining three-fourths of a generation who are institutional loyalists die off or both.
The imminent demise under discussion is the collapse of the unique culture in North America that has come to be called “church.” This church culture has become confused with biblical Christianity, both inside the church and out.
A growing number of people are leaving the institutional church for a new reason. They are not leaving because they have lost faith. They are leaving the church to preserve their faith. McNeal, The Present Future, p. 1, 4.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR US?
- We should ask for and look expectantly for 10:2b answers from among the “Dones” or “Almost Dones“. These people will have been shaped by God’s shalom. They will be godly, mature and motivated. Spiritual moms and dads prepared to start and lead vibrant families of Jesus. (Note: certainly not all the “Dones” fit this description but some do.)
- We should ask for and look expectantly for a powerful church planting movement in the United States and other countries led by these people who are answers to our 10:2b prayers. These people may be the foundation for a massive revival and awakening!
SHOULD WE PLANT CHURCHES AMONG CHRISTIANS?
OUR ANSWER… ABSOLUTELY, THIS IS THE FOUNDATION FOR THE COMING REVIVAL AND AWAKENING!